The Commonplace Book as a Thinker’s Journal

Commonplace Book

For centuries, authors and thinkers have kept commonplace books: focused journals that serve to collect thoughts, quotes, moments of introspection, transcribed passages from reading – anything of purpose worth reviewing later.

Why keep a commonplace book today? When we are inundated by information through social media and our digital devices, it’s easy to overlook what drives and intrigues us. Keeping a journal helps, but keeping a focused journal is better, even if that focus is on self-fulfillment.

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Setting goals isn’t always the best creative move

Digital Disruption - Critical Margins

If you do any creative work (and I’m assuming most Critical Margins readers do something creative) you’ll recognize what researcher Kenneth Stanley calls the “objective paradox”: According to Christie Aschwanden over at FiveThirtyEight (“Stop Trying To Be Creative”), the objective paradox is the feeling that “as soon as you create an objective, you ruin your ability to reach it.” This hampers the creative process, which requires “blind searching” and “an openness to discovering whatever arises.”

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In Defense of the Present Tense (from lithub.com)

It’s becoming the most popular verb tense in fiction writing, and this article by Alexander Chee at Lithub.com defends it:

As a part time professional ‘creative writing tutor’, I can say I only ever teach the present tense as one tool among many. I do not urge it on my ‘sensitive and artistic storytellers’, or any of the insensitive ones either. I teach students that verbs are the way they create a relationship for the reader to time, and function a little like the way a horizon line might in a picture. As for using it to dodge the ‘politically dodgy’, well, I can’t imagine teaching anyone that way with a straight face—and so that strikes me as something of a straw man. Or, woman, perhaps.

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Why Writing on Paper Matters in the Digital Age

Bullet Journal

Nothing can replace the experience of writing on paper, so why seek out a digital replacement?

Last month, I faced a predicament: How should I organize and manage all my projects? I’m a freelance editor; I have to organize my client work smartly, otherwise I won’t finish the work on time and get paid. I manage several projects with multiple clients, and sometimes I get overwhelmed.

I looked at my schedule and my to-do list scattered across four apps on my phone and a half-used notebook on my desk. I went through my stuff to organize it, and it dawned on me that I had a problem: I spent too much time playing with organization apps and programs in an attempt to perfect my productivity, but I didn’t spend enough time actually being productive. Continue reading →

Are Pen Names Worth It? (Episode 25)

Special note: This is our last episode for 2014, but we’ll be back in January with even better topics, so keep listening! Kevin is taking time off in November and December to figure out fatherhood. He is expecting his first son sometime in November. For now, enjoy the show!

Today, we are talking about pseudonyms. Do writers need them?
Are there ever times when we need to hide behind a pseudonym or publish anonymously? Some writers and artists make their persona part of their style, so certainly a pseudonym can work, but it’s not for everyone.


Show notes:


We’d love to hear from you! If you enjoy our show, rate us on iTunes or Stitcher and get the word out. Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter: Kevin (@criticalmargins) or Jason (@jasonanthebeast).

Writing Like a Cyborg (Episode 24)

In today’s episode, we go where no other writer has gone before: into the great unknown of artificial intelligence. We use tools that augment our lives every day, but as writers, we’ve relied on the same tools for centuries. What if we could automate or offload almost every part of the writing experience – maybe everything except writing itself? What if robots and algorithms took over the drudgery of creating, freeing up our minds for other things?


Show notes:


We’d love to hear from you! If you enjoy our show, rate us on iTunes or Stitcher and get the word out. Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter: Kevin (@criticalmargins) or Jason (@jasonanthebeast).

The Late Bloomers (Episode 22)

What happens if you peak late in life? Today, we’re talking about those late bloomers, the writers and innovators who gain notoreity after years of hard work. Did you know Charles Bukowski wasn’t published until he was 51, or that Walt Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass at 36? Today, we seem obsessed with young genius, but we still see cases of people publishing and gaining success later in life.

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